Penn Hills gets past Baldwin on late score
Baldwin went for two. Penn Hills went for three.
Minutes after having a shorter kick blocked, Peter Gula made a 28-yard field goal with 32 seconds left Thursday night to give Penn Hills a 10-8 victory over visiting Baldwin at Andrew Yuhas Stadium.
The clutch kick countered Baldwin's gutsy gamble.
Gula's game-winner came moments after Baldwin appeared to have a hard-fought victory in hand. With 3:08 left, star halfback Dorian Brown rushed 1 yard for a touchdown and then added a gutsy two-point run that gave the Highlanders a one-point lead. That go-ahead drive included a 42-yard fake punt by Luke Smorey.
But the lead didn't last.
Penn Hills quarterback Darius Holloway began working his Indians downfield from the 24, including a 19-yard pass to Aaron Bailey. With no timeouts and facing third down at Baldwin's 11, Holloway spiked the football and stepped aside for Gula.
With 5:25 left, a 24-yarder by Gula was blocked. His second kick was easily through.
“I told the football team we have a good kicker,” Penn Hills coach John Peterman said, “but when you don't block for him, he looks like he's not a very good kicker. If we make the block, he can make the kick.”
Going for two might become a Thursday night trend. A week ago, Central Valley went for two in overtime but fell short in a 28-27 televised loss to Montour.
This time it almost worked. Brown took a direct snap and pushed into the end zone behind the left side of Baldwin's line. The gamble gave Baldwin a one-point lead, and gave Penn Hills just 3:08 remaining to respond.
Baldwin's defense, which had been strong all game, bent on the final drive.
“That's my fault for the way the defense played; we were lined up wrong,” Baldwin coach Jim Wehner said. “I think there was twice where we had 10 guys on the field and I sent someone in. I'm going to take the blame for that. I just think we sort of relaxed a little bit. They thought that we were in prevent. That was my fault.”
The victory keeps Penn Hills (2-1, 2-1) near the top of the Quad Central standings, while Baldwin (1-2, 1-2) slips one game back.
Brown, one of the WPIAL's top rushers, had 174 yards on 19 carries.
“I think everybody got a glimpse of Dorian Brown,” Wehner said. “He's a big-time player. There's no doubt about it. The people that don't believe that saw it tonight.”
A 3-yard run by Bailey gave Penn Hills a 7-0 lead with 8:46 left in the second quarter. On first-and-goal, the senior slipped around right tackle to finish a nine-play, 86-yard drive that began late in the first quarter. A 38-yard run by Holloway highlighted the drive.
The Indians found success with a new crowded-backfield formation that uses three backs to surround Holloway. Bailey was the tailback, with junior Marshall Thompson and senior Torreek Hester set to each side.
Bailey rushed for 108 yards on 20 carries.
“I like to play Penn Hills football,” Peterman said of the new formation. “We'll use shotgun, we like to spread people out and let our athletes make plays. But every once in awhile it's nice to see Penn Hills playing downhill.”
Penn Hills led 7-0 at halftime, but held nearly a two-to-one edge in time of possession. Two long drives netted the Indians no points, including an 11-play, 77-yard opening possession that stalled at Baldwin's 6. Another Penn Hills drive reach Baldwin's 9 but ended with a fumble.
But the Indians defense preserved that 7-0 lead until the fourth quarter.
Its best stands came late in the third quarter, beginning when a fumble by Holloway gave Baldwin possession at Penn Hills' 13-yard line. From there a holding penalty moved Baldwin back 10 yards, and a stuffed run on first down moved the Highlanders back one more.
Incomplete passes consumed second, third and fourth downs. The third-down pass was batted away by Penn Hills' Sage Hicks. The fourth-down throw was broken up by Demond Reed. Either could have been a touchdown.
The next possession ended when Reed intercepted a pass at the goal line with 3:55 left in the third quarter, erasing another Baldwin scoring chance.
Baldwin's defense stood strong in the fourth. With 5:25 left, Penn Hills had first-and-goal at the 5, but lost two yards on three plays. The 24-yard field goal attempt by Gula was blocked by Smorey.
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5666.